So much of the discussion about long-term care in this country is focused on the patients and the payments. That makes sense. Long-term care can be very expensive and it has an inestimable impact on the lives of the elderly who need it.
In giving those issues the attention they deserve, though, we mustn’t overlook one invaluable piece of the senior-care puzzle: the voluntary family caregiver.
About Health tells us that more than 22.4 million Americans are providing some form of informal, unpaid care to elderly or disabled relatives. Their efforts are noble but they can also be incredibly stressful.
We also know that the majority of visits to doctor’s offices in this country are stress-related. Stress is a real concern and a verified cause of illness. It is important, then, for caregivers to set a moment aside for serious self-assessment.
According to About Health, the following are the most common signs and symptoms of in-home caregiver stress:
- Anxiety that doesn’t get better after a short time
- Crying more than usual
- Frequent sadness or mood swings
- Low energy
- Changes in sleeping patterns (i.e. insomnia, oversleeping, etc.)
- Changes in eating patterns (i.e. loss of appetite, overeating, etc.)
- Social isolation
- Diminished interest in your usual hobbies
- Feeling that you don’t have time for yourself
- Tension headaches
- Feeling angry or resentful toward the person you are caring for
If you’ve checked off more than one or two of these, the following resources can help you manage your stress, connect with other caregivers, and find some balance:
- Caregiver support group at the Arlington Council on Aging
- The Winchester Council on Aging
- The newly launched AARP Caregiving Resource Center & support group
- About Health’s resource index also includes private care aides, skilled nursing facilities, and adult daycare options.
Staying in strong physical and emotional health isn’t important for only the caregiver. The elderly recipient of care also needs somebody who’s staying in good spirits and good health.
If you’re caring for someone at home and feeling a little overwhelmed, please know that it’s normal and that you aren’t alone. Allow yourself to take a deep breath and create some “me time.” If you need outside help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Remember: you can’t help anyone else until you’re taking care of yourself too.